Center for Integrative Human Physiology

Zürich, Switzerland

Center for Integrative Human Physiology

Zürich, Switzerland
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Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Sollberger S.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience | Year: 2013

Here, we reevaluated the "two-component" model of absolute pitch (AP) by combining behavioral and electrophysiological measurements. This specific model postulates that AP is driven by a perceptual encoding ability (i.e., pitch memory) plus an associative memory component (i.e., pitch labeling). To test these predictions, during EEG measurements AP and non-AP (NAP) musicians were passively exposed to piano tones (first component of the model) and additionally instructed to judge whether combinations of tones and labels were conceptually associated or not (second component of the model). Auditory-evoked N1/P2 potentials did not reveal differences between the two groups, thus indicating that AP is not necessarily driven by a differential pitch encoding ability at the processing level of the auditory cortex. Otherwise, AP musicians performed the conceptual association task with an order of magnitude better accuracy and shorter RTs than NAP musicians did, this result clearly pointing to distinctive conceptual associations in AP possessors. Most notably, this behavioral superiority was reflected by an increased N400 effect and accompanied by a subsequent late positive component, the latter not being distinguishable in NAP musicians. © 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Gerber P.A.,University of Zürich | Gerber P.A.,Competence Center for Systems Physiology and Metabolic Diseases | Gouni-Berthold I.,University of Cologne | Berneis K.,University of Zürich | Berneis K.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology
Current Pharmaceutical Design | Year: 2013

The inverse association of cardiovascular risk with intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was suspected early in populations that are known to have a high consumption of fish and fish oil. Subsequent cohort studies confirmed such associations in other populations. Further evidence of possible beneficial effects on metabolism and cardiovascular health was provided by many studies that were able to show specific mechanisms that may underlie these observations. These include improvement of the function of tissues involved in the alterations occurring during the development of obesity and the metabolic syndrome, as adipose tissue, the liver and skeletal muscle. Direct action on the cardiovascular system was not only shown regarding vascular function and the formation of atherosclerotic plaques, but also by providing antiarrhythmic effects on the heart. Data on these effects come from in vitro as well as in vivo studies that were conducted in animal models of disease, in healthy humans and in humans suffering from cardiovascular disease. To define prophylactic as well as treatment options in primary and secondary prevention, large clinical trial assessed the effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on end points as cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, so far these trials provided ambiguous data that do allow recommendations regarding the use of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in higher dosages and beyond the dietary advice of regular fish intake only in few clinical situations, such as severe hypertriglyceridemia. © 2013 Bentham Science Publishers.


Kuhnis J.,University of Zürich | Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Meyer M.,University of Zürich | And 4 more authors.
Neuropsychologia | Year: 2013

Here, we applied a multi-feature mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm in order to systematically investigate the neuronal representation of vowels and temporally manipulated CV syllables in a homogeneous sample of string players and non-musicians. Based on previous work indicating an increased sensitivity of the musicians' auditory system, we expected to find that musically trained subjects will elicit increased MMN amplitudes in response to temporal variations in CV syllables, namely voice-onset time (VOT) and duration. In addition, since different vowels are principally distinguished by means of frequency information and musicians are superior in extracting tonal (and thus frequency) information from an acoustic stream, we also expected to provide evidence for an increased auditory representation of vowels in the experts. In line with our hypothesis, we could show that musicians are not only advantaged in the pre-attentive encoding of temporal speech cues, but most notably also in processing vowels. Additional "just noticeable difference" measurements suggested that the musicians' perceptual advantage in encoding speech sounds was more likely driven by the generic constitutional properties of a highly trained auditory system, rather than by its specialisation for speech representations per se. These results shed light on the origin of the often reported advantage of musicians in processing a variety of speech sounds. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Jancke L.,University of Zürich | And 2 more authors.
Cerebral Cortex | Year: 2012

The perception of rapidly changing verbal and nonverbal auditory patterns is a fundamental prerequisite for speech and music processing. Previously, the left planum temporale (PT) has been consistently shown to support the discrimination of fast changing verbal and nonverbal sounds. Furthermore, it has been repeatedly shown that the functional and structural architecture of this supratemporal brain region differs as a function of musical training. In the present study, we used the functional magnetic resonance imaging technique, in a sample of professional musicians and nonmusicians, in order to examine the functional contribution of the left PT to the categorization of consonant-vowel syllables and their reduced-spectrum analogues. In line with our hypothesis, the musicians showed enhanced brain responses in the left PT and superior discrimination abilities in the reduced-spectrum condition. Moreover, we found a positive correlation between the responsiveness of the left PT and the performance in the reduced-spectrum condition across all subjects irrespective of musical expertise. These results have implications for our understanding of musical expertise in relation to segmental speech processing. © 2011 The Authors.


Meyer M.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Ringli M.,University of Zürich | And 3 more authors.
European Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2011

This event-related brain potential study aims to contribute to the present debate regarding the effect of musical training on the maturation of the human auditory nervous system. To address this issue, we recorded the mismatch negativity (MMN) evoked by violin and pure sine-wave tones in a group of 7.5- to 12-year-old children who had either several years of musical experience with Suzuki violin lessons, or no musical training. The strength of the MMN responses to violin tones evident in the Suzuki students clearly surpassed responses in controls; the reverse pattern was observed for sine-wave tones. Suzuki students showed significantly shorter MMN latencies to violin tones than to pure tones; the MMN latency did not differ significantly between pure tones and violin sounds in the control group. Thus, our data provide general evidence of how and to what extent extensive musical experience affects the maturation of human auditory function at multiple levels, namely, accuracy and speed of auditory discrimination processing. Our findings add to the present understanding of neuroplastic organization and function of the mammalian nervous system. Furthermore, behavioural recordings obtained from the participating children provide corroborating evidence for a relationship between the duration and intensity of training, the specific sensitivity to instrumental timbre, and pitch recognition abilities. © 2011 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2011 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


Jancke L.,University of Zürich | Jancke L.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Jancke L.,International Normal Aging and Plasticity Imaging Center | Rogenmoser L.,University of Zürich | And 3 more authors.
BMC Neuroscience | Year: 2012

Background: Coloured-hearing (CH) synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which an acoustic stimulus (the inducer) initiates a concurrent colour perception (the concurrent). Individuals with CH synesthesia "see" colours when hearing tones, words, or music; this specific phenomenon suggesting a close relationship between auditory and visual representations. To date, it is still unknown whether the perception of colours is associated with a modulation of brain functions in the inducing brain area, namely in the auditory-related cortex and associated brain areas. In addition, there is an on-going debate as to whether attention to the inducer is necessarily required for eliciting a visual concurrent, or whether the latter can emerge in a pre-attentive fashion.Results: By using the EEG technique in the context of a pre-attentive mismatch negativity (MMN) paradigm, we show that the binding of tones and colours in CH synesthetes is associated with increased MMN amplitudes in response to deviant tones supposed to induce novel concurrent colour perceptions. Most notably, the increased MMN amplitudes we revealed in the CH synesthetes were associated with stronger intracerebral current densities originating from the auditory cortex, parietal cortex, and ventral visual areas.Conclusions: The automatic binding of tones and colours in CH synesthetes is accompanied by an early pre-attentive process recruiting the auditory cortex, inferior and superior parietal lobules, as well as ventral occipital areas. © 2012 Jäncke et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Hanggi J.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Meyer M.,University of Zürich | And 4 more authors.
Cortex | Year: 2013

We measured musicians and non-musicians by using structural magnetic resonance imaging to investigate relationships between cortical features of the left planum temporale (PT) and the categorization of consonant-vowel (CV) syllables and their reduced-spectrum analogues. The present work is based on previous functional studies consistently showing that the left PT is particularly responsive to transient acoustic features in CV syllables and their reduced-spectrum analogues, and on striking evidence pointing to structural alterations of the left PT as a function of musicianship. By combining these two observations, we hypothesized to find that differences in cortical surface area (SA) and cortical thickness (CT) of the left PT in musicians may facilitate the categorization of fast-changing phonetic cues. Behavioural results indicated that musicians and non-musicians achieved a comparable performance in the categorization of CV syllables, whereas the musicians performed significantly better than the controls in the more demanding reduced-spectrum condition. This better behavioural performance corresponds to an increased cortical SA of the left PT in musicians compared to non-musicians. No differences in CT of the left PT were found between groups. In line with our predictions, we revealed a positive correlation between cortical SA of the left PT in musicians and the behavioural performance during the acoustically more demanding reduced-spectrum condition. Hence, we provide first evidence for a relationship between musical expertise, cortical SA of the left PT, and the processing of fast-changing phonetic cues. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Elmer S.,Institute of Psychology | Rogenmoser L.,Institute of Psychology | Kuhnis J.,Institute of Psychology | Jancke L.,Institute of Psychology | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Neuroscience | Year: 2015

Absolute pitch (AP) refers to the rare ability to identify the chroma of a tone or to produce a specific pitch without reference to keyality (e.g., G or C). Previously, AP has been proposed to rely on the distinctive functional-anatomical architecture of the left auditory-related cortex (ARC), this specific trait possibly enabling an optimized early “categorical perception”. In contrast, currently prevailing models of AP postulate that cognitive rather than perceptual processes, namely “pitch labeling” mechanisms, more likely constitute the bearing skeleton of AP. This associative memory component has previously been proposed to be dependent, among other mechanisms, on the recruitment of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) as well as on the integrity of the left arcuate fasciculus, a fiber bundle linking the posterior supratemporal plane with the DLPFC. Here, we attempted to integrate these two apparently conflicting perspectives on AP, namely early “categorical perception” and “pitch labeling”. We used electroencephalography and evaluated resting-state intracranial functional connectivity between the left ARC and DLPFC in a sample of musicians with and without AP. Results demonstrate significantly increased left-hemispheric theta phase synchronization in AP compared with non-AP musicians. Within the AP group, this specific electrophysiological marker was predictive of absolute-hearing behavior and explained ~30% of variance. Thus, we propose that in AP subjects the tonal inputs and the corresponding mnemonic representations are tightly coupled in such a manner that the distinctive electrophysiological signature of AP can saliently be detected in only 3 min of resting-state measurements. © 2015 the authors


McKay R.,University of London | Tamagni C.,University of Zürich | Palla A.,University of Zürich | Krummenacher P.,University of Zürich | And 5 more authors.
Cortex | Year: 2013

Introduction: Unrealistic optimism refers to the pervasive tendency of healthy individuals to underestimate their likelihood of future misfortune, including illness. The phenomenon shares a qualitative resemblance with anosognosia, a neurological disorder characterized by a deficient appreciation of manifest current illness or impairment. Unrealistic optimism and anosognosia have been independently associated with a region of right inferior frontal gyrus, the pars opercularis. Moreover, anosognosia is temporarily abolished by vestibular stimulation, particularly by irrigation of the left (but not right) ear with cold water, a procedure known to activate the right inferior frontal region. We therefore hypothesized that left caloric stimulation would attenuate unrealistic optimism in healthy participants. Methods: Thirty-one healthy right-handed adults underwent cold. -water caloric vestibular stimulation of both ears in succession. During each stimulation episode, and at baseline, participants estimated their own relative risk of contracting a series of illnesses in the future. Results: Compared to baseline, average risk estimates were significantly higher during left-ear stimulation, whereas they remained unchanged during right-ear stimulation. Unrealistic optimism was thus reduced selectively during cold caloric stimulation of the left ear. Conclusions: Our results point to a unitary mechanism underlying both anosognosia and unrealistic optimism, and suggest that unrealistic optimism is a form of subclinical anosognosia for prospective symptoms. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.


Kuhnis J.,University of Zürich | Elmer S.,University of Zürich | Meyer M.,Center for Integrative Human Physiology | Meyer M.,University of Zürich | And 3 more authors.
Brain Topography | Year: 2013

A vast amount of previous work has consistently revealed that professional music training is associated with functional and structural alterations of auditory-related brain regions. Meanwhile, there is also an increasing array of evidence, which shows that musicianship facilitates segmental, as well as supra-segmental aspects of speech processing. Based on this evidence, we addressed a novel research question, namely whether professional music training has an influence on the perceptual learning of speech sounds. In the context of an EEG experiment, we presented auditory pseudoword-chimeras, manipulated in terms of spectral- or envelope-related acoustic information, to a group of professional musicians and non-musicians. During EEG measurements, participants were requested to assign the auditory-presented pseudoword-chimeras to one out of four visually presented templates. As expected, both groups showed behavioural learning effects during the time course of the experiment. These learning effects were associated with an increase in accuracy, a decrease in reaction time, as well as a decrease in the P2-like microstate duration in both groups. Notably, the musicians showed an increased learning performance compared to the controls during the first two runs of the spectral condition. This perceptual learning effect, which varies as a function of musical expertise, was reflected by a reduction of the P2-like microstate duration. Results may mirror transfer effects from musical training to the processing of spectral information in speech sounds. Hence, this study provides first evidence for a relationship between changes in microstates, musical expertise, and perceptual verbal learning mechanisms. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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